Unlike my list that attempts to compile upcoming literature and fiction titles, here I’ve had to be selective in what to include, otherwise the length of this post would be unmanageable. Nevertheless I’ve almost certainly missed out some titles that I’d want to have on my bookshelf.
I’ve divided the list into seven sections:
Literature and film
Arts and heritage
Religion and ideas
History and society
Language and linguistics
Of the below, I’ll be looking forward to Anna Fifield on Kim Jong Un and Euny Hong on the art of nunchi, the studies on honourable suicide. adoption and the minjung movement, plus all three titles in the first section.
1. Literature and film
I enjoyed Minsoo Kang’s discussion on the authorship of Hong Gildong in the introduction to his Penguin translation of the classic, and I assume the volume below is an expansion of that essay. The second volume on the list was due in 2018, but assuming its currently anticipated release date of 11 January doesn’t slip further it will be the perfect pre-reading for the season of colonial era films screening at the BFI in February.
Invincible and Righteous Outlaw
Hardcover, 296 pages, £73.50 (Kindle £23.62)
Publisher: University of Hawai’i Press
Minsoo Kang shows how the classic Story of Hong Gildong was altered, distorted, and reinvigorated during and after the Japanese colonial period in both the North and the South for political, social, and literary purposes. While demonstrating the continued relevance of the novel and its hero in Korean culture up to the present day, Kang makes it clear that such narratives have served mostly to distance readers from a better understanding of this classic work.
Parameters of Disavowal: Colonial Representation in South Korean Cinema
Paperback, 270 pages, £27.00
Publisher: University of California Press
The colonial experience of the twentieth century (1910-1945) decidedly shaped the culture and identity of Korea, yet the precise manner as to how South Korean postcolonial cinema depicts this troubling past has not received sufficient scholarly attention. Parameters of Disavowal seeks to break this hiatus.
Joseph Jonghyun Jeon
Vicious Circuits: Korea’s IMF Cinema and the End of the American Century
Paperback, 248 pages, £23.54
Publisher: Stanford University Press Vicious Circuits examines what it terms “Korea’s IMF Cinema,” the decade of cinema following that crisis, in order to think through the transformations of global political economy at the end of the American century. It argues that one of the most dominant traits of the cinema that emerged after the worst economic crisis in the history of South Korea was its preoccupation with economic phenomena.
2. Arts and heritage
Of the books on arts and heritage I’ve been able to find probably top of the list is a look at Buddhist paining in China and Korea. Next is the second volume that looks at Korea-related objects in oxford’s museums and libraries. The third item on the list appears to be a collection of papers from the excellent conference held at SOAS in October 2015. A pricey volume, but one nevertheless worth browsing.
Cheeyun Lilian Kwon
Efficacious Underworld: The Evolution of Ten Kings Paintings in Medieval China and Korea
Hardcover, 224 pages, £78.95
Publisher: University of Hawaii Press
Efficacious Underworld fills major lacunae in Korean, East Asian, and Ten Kings painting traditions while illuminating Korea’s contribution to the evolution of a Buddhist theme on its trajectory across East Asia. With its rich set of color reproductions and detailed analysis of textual and visual materials, this volume will invite significant revision to previously held notions on Koryo painting.
Korean Treasures: Volume 2: Rare Books, Manuscripts and Artefacts in the Bodleian Libraries and Museums of Oxford University
Hardcover, 160 pages, £35.00
Publisher: The Bodleian Library
Many important and valuable rare books, manuscripts and artefacts related to Korea have been acquired by donations throughout the long history of the Bodleian Libraries and the museums of the University of Oxford. However, due to an early lack of specialist knowledge in this area, many of these Korean items were largely neglected. Following on from the publication of the first volume of these forgotten treasures, this book collects together further important and often unique objects.
Eriko Tomizawa-Kay, Toshio Watanabe (eds)
East Asian Art History in a Transnational Context
Hardcover, 288 pages, £105.00
This is the first comprehensive English-language study of East Asian art history in a transnational context, and challenges the existing geographic, temporal, and generic paradigms that currently frame the art history of East Asia. This pioneering study proposes an important new framework that focuses on the relationship between China, Japan, and Korea.
3. Religion and ideas
What looks like some heavy-duty stuff here, but I’ll be tempted by Kevin Cawley’s introductory volume and possibly the commentary on Huangbo’s teaching.
The Analects of Dasan, Volume III: A Korean Syncretic Reading
Hardcover, 224 pages, £67.41
Publisher: OUP USA
This book is the third volume of an English translation of Dasan’s Noneo gogeum ju (Old and New Commentaries of the Analects) with the translator’s comments on the innovative ideas and interpretations of Dasan on the Analects.
Religious and Philosophical Traditions of Korea
Paperback: 218 pages £31.68
Publisher: Routledge Religious and Philosophical Traditions of Korea addresses a wide range of traditions, serving as a guide to those interested in Buddhism, Confucianism, Shamanism, Christianity and many others. It brings readers along a journey from the past to the present, moving beyond the confines of the Korean peninsula. In this book Kevin N. Cawley examines the different ideas which have shaped a vibrant and exciting intellectual history and engages with some of the key texts and figures from Korea’s intellectual traditions.
Master Subul Seon, tr Robert E Buswell Jr + Seong-uk Kim
A Bird in Flight Leaves No Trace: The Zen Teaching of Huangbo with a Modern Commentary
Hardcover, 381 pages, £19.80
Publisher: Wisdom Publications, U.S
Penetrate the nature of mind with this contemporary Korean take on a classic of Zen literature.
The message of the Tang-dynasty Zen text in this volume seems simple: to gain enlightenment, stop thinking there is something you need to practice. For the Chinese master Huangbo Xiyun (d. 850), the mind is enlightenment itself if we can only let go of our normal way of thinking.
tr Byonghyon Choi
A Korean Scholar’s Rude Awakening in Qing China: Pak Chega’s Discourse on Northern Learning
Hardcover, 304 pages, £74.50
Publisher: University of Hawai’i Press
Years of humiliation and resentment against the conquering Manchus blinded many Korean elites to the scientific and technological advances made in Qing China (1644-1911). They despised its rulers as barbarians and begrudged Qing China’s status as their suzerain state. But Pak Chega saw Korea’s northern neighbor as a model of economic and social reform. He and like-minded progressives discussed and corroborated views about the superiority of China’s civilization.
4. History and society
Books on a very wide range of topics here. There’s bound to be something that piques your interest.
Charles R. Kim, Jungwon Kim, Hwasook B. Nam, Serk-Bae Suh (Eds)
Beyond Death: The Politics of Suicide and Martyrdom in Korea
Paperback, 376 pages, £35.00
Publisher: Center for Korea Studies, University of Washington
Suicide and martyrdom are closely intertwined with Korean social and political processes. In this first book-length study of the evolving ideals of honorable death and martyrdom from the Chosŏn Dynasty (1392–1910) to contemporary South Korea, interdisciplinary essays explore the changing ways in which Korean historical agents have considered what constitutes a sociopolitically meaningful death and how the surviving community should remember such events.
King Chongjo, an Enlightened Despot in Early Modern Korea
Hardcover, 256 page, £67.14
Publisher: State University of New York Press
Through close analysis of both official records and private letters, including Chŏngjo’s “secret letters,” Lovins shows that, in contrast to previous assumptions, the late eighteenth-century Korean monarchs were not weak and ineffective but instead were in the process of building an absolutist polity.
Robert E. Buswell (Ed), Kenneth R. Robinson (Tr)
Korean Records of Relations With Japan and Ryukyu: The Haedong Chegukki from the Early Choson Period
Hardcover, 304 pages, £51.23
Publisher: Univ of Hawaii Pr
Between 1392 and 1592 – a period bounded by Japanese pirate raids along the Korean coast and Japans invasion of Choson Korea – more than 4,600 Japanese trade missions were recorded by the Choson government. In response to these missions, the famous official Shin Sukchu compiled regulations, specifics about interaction with the Japanese, and other materials, which were printed in 1472 as the Haedong chegukki.
Rules of the House: Family Law and Domestic Disputes in Colonial Korea
Paperback, 168 pages, £27.77
Publisher: University of California Press
Following female plaintiffs and their civil disputes from the precolonial Choson dynasty through colonial times and into postcolonial reforms, this book presents a new and groundbreaking story about Korean women’s legal struggles, revealing their surprising collaborative relationship with the colonial state.
Sonja M. Kim
Imperatives of Care
Hardcover, 192 pages, £49.17
Publisher: University of Hawai’i Press
Imperatives of Care places women and gender at the center of modern medical transformations in Korea. It outlines the professionalization of medicine, nursing, and midwifery, tracing their evolution from new legal and institutional infrastructures in public health and education, and investigates women’s experiences as health practitioners and patients, medical activities directed at women’s bodies, and the related knowledge and goods produced for and consumed by women
Sung-Wook Nam, Sang-Woo Rhee, Myongsob Kim
South Korea’s 70-Year Endeavor for Foreign Policy, National Defense, and Unification
Hardcover, 308 pages, £44.99
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
This book brings Korea’s finest foreign policy minds together in contemplating the risks and rewards of finally ending the 70 year stalemate between North and South Korea through reunification. This book will help scholars, activists and policy-makers from all over the world systematically understand the current diplomatic and security issues in the Korean peninsula.
The Interrogation Rooms of the Korean War: The Untold History
Hardcover, 452 pages, £27
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Upending conventional notions of what we think of as geographies of military conflict, Monica Kim demonstrates how the Korean War evolved from a fight over territory to one over human interiority and the individual human subject, forging the template for the US wars of intervention that would predominate during the latter half of the twentieth century and beyond.
Kimberly D. McKee
Disrupting Kinship: Transnational Politics of Korean Adoption in the United States
Paperback, 250 pages, £19.99
Publisher: University of Illinois Press
Since the Korean War began, Western families have adopted more than 200,000 Korean children. Two-thirds of these adoptees found homes in the United States. The majority joined white families and in the process forged a new kind of transnational and transracial kinship.Kimberly D. McKee examines the growth of the neo-colonial, multi-million dollar global industry that shaped these families — a system she identifies as the transnational adoption industrial complex.
Top-Down Democracy in South Korea
Paperback, 208 pages, £22.99
Publisher: University of Washington Press
Retelling South Korea’s political development from 1945 through the end of dictatorship in the 1980s and into the twenty-first century, Mobrand challenges the view that the origins of the postauthoritarian political system lie in a series of popular movements that eventually undid repression. He argues that we should think about democratization not as the establishment of an entirely new system, but as the subtle blending of new formal rules with earlier authority structures, political institutions, and legitimizing norms.
David P Fields
Foreign Friends: Syngman Rhee, American Exceptionalism, and the Division of Korea
Hardcover, 256 pages, £39.37
Publisher: The University Press of Kentucky
David P. Fields argues that the division of Korea resulted not from a snap decision made by US military officers at the end of World War II but from a forty-year lobbying campaign spearheaded by Korean nationalist Syngman Rhee.
Revisiting Minjung: New Perspectives on the Cultural History of 1980s South Korea
Paperback, 312 pages, £30.95
Publisher: The University of Michigan Press
Treated here is a wide array of topics, including the origins of minjung ideology, its critique by the right wing, minjung art and music, workers’ literary culture, women writers and the resurgence of feminism, erotic cinema, science fiction, transnational political travels, and the representations of race and queerness in 1980s popular culture. The book thus details the origins and development of some of the movements that shape cultural life in South Korea today, and it does so through analyses that engage some of the most pressing debates in current scholarship in Korea and abroad.
David Cheng Chang
The Hijacked War: The Story of Chinese POWs in the Korean War
Hardcover, 528 pages, £32
Publisher: Stanford University Press
Drawing on newly declassified archival materials from China, Taiwan, and the United States and interviews with surviving Chinese and North Korean prisoners of war, Chang depicts the struggle over prisoner repatriation that dominated the second half of the Korean War, from late 1951 to July 1953, in the prisoners’ own words.
5. North Korea
The price tag on the first volume below rules it out from all apart from the most well-funded libraries, but the other two look tempting.
South Korean Popular Culture and North Korea
Hardcover, 204 pages, £115
Over recent decades South Korea’s vibrant and distinctive populist culture has spread extensively throughout the world. This book explores how this “Korean wave” has also made an impact in North Korea.
Ra Jong-yil (tr Jinna Park)
Inside North Korea’s Theocracy: The Rise and Sudden Fall of Jang Song-thaek
Paperback, 192 pages, £19.71
Publisher: State University of New York Press
First published in Korean in 2016, Inside North Korea’s Theocracy offers a fascinating and rare look at the lives of several of the regime’s key leaders.
The Great Successor: The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong Un, Sun of the 21st Century
Hardcover, 288 pages, £20.00
Publisher: John Murray
The Great Successor is an irreverent yet insightful quest to understand the life of Kim Jong Un, one of the world’s most secretive dictators. Kim’s life is swathed in myth and propaganda, from the plainly silly–he supposedly ate so much Swiss cheese that his ankles gave way–to the grimly bloody stories of the ways his enemies and rival family members have perished at his command.
6. Modern Life
We’ve had Scandinavian hygge, now it’s Korean nunchi’s turn. Become a nunchi ninja with Euny Hong, author of the very fun Birth of Korean Cool.
Suh Yoon Lee + Jooyun Hong
The Having: The Secret Art of Feeling and Growing Rich
Hardcover, 240 pages, £14.99
Publisher: Ballantine Books Inc
When Wharton MBA Jooyun Hong went seeking the true secret of creating wealth, she found herself studying under a mysterious Korean guru who advises the 1% of South Korea. She now shares what she learned in this life-changing narrative: feel the joys of what you have and spend your money according to this feeling.
K-Pop Style: Korean Pop Star Fashion to Style at Home
Paperback, 144 pages, £10.99
Publisher: Racehorse Publishing
In this book, you’ll find the methods to get the look and street styles of your favorite K-POP artists, both female and male.
The Power of Nunchi: The Korean Secret to Happiness and Success
Hardcover, 208 pages, £12.99
Nunchi (noon-chee): ‘eye measure’; the subtle art of gauging other people’s thoughts and feelings to build harmony, trust and connection.
Ever wondered about that good-not-great colleague who gets promoted ahead of everyone else? No, they’re not sleeping with the boss, they’ve just got great nunchi. Or that friend-of-a-friend you’ve just met but already instinctively like? How about the family member who seems to understand what you need before you’ve worked it out yourself? They’re nunchi ninjas, even if they don’t know it.
7. Language and linguistics
Finally Jaehoon Yeon and Lucien Brown have been working hard on The Handbook of Korean Linguistics (Blackwell / Wiley) due in January and a second edition of their Korean: A Comprehensive Grammar (Routledge) due in June.